ANNAPOLIS – Federal stimulus funds have created or saved the equivalent of more than 14,000 jobs since late February, the O’Malley administration announced Thursday, even as questions remain about how fast those funds are distributed and the accuracy of the job numbers.
According to state officials, funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act led to more than 4,464 “direct jobs,” meaning that those funds directly paid for projects like highway construction and education. The remainder of the 14,082 resulted either from indirect jobs, which are often subcontractors for highway projects, or induced jobs, which are created by consumers spending money at restaurants and stores.
The job numbers arrive amidst what is widely considered to be the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Since February, more than 25,000 jobs have been lost in the state, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Last month, the state unemployment rate rose slightly to 7.2 percent, one of the highest levels in decades.
“Our economy is doing much better now than it was eight months ago, and will continue to do better eight months from now if we continue to work together,” Gov. Martin O’Malley said Thursday, during a press conference at P. Flanigan and Sons’ asphalt plant in Baltimore.
But concerns remain. Thus far, Maryland has received about $2 billion in stimulus money, which is roughly half of what the state expects through 2011. Yet, only about $229 million, or 11 percent, of the allocated money had been spent as of Sept. 30.
State officials said that much of the money came very recently, and Michael Enright, a senior adviser to O’Malley, told reporters he was satisfied with the progress the state has made in allocating stimulus money. But he acknowledged there is tension between “getting these dollars into the economic bloodstream as quick as possible” and “doing it the right way so we can show transparency and accountability.”
“We’re changing the wheels on a moving car here,” Enright said. “There’s going to be some mistakes and we’ve just got to correct them and try not to let them happen again.”
According a report published by the Associated Press Thursday, reporting mistakes have already been made across the nation. An analysis of federal data showed the government had “overstated by thousands the number of jobs it has created or saved” through the stimulus program.
In response, the White House called the story “misleading” and said most of the errors mentioned had already been corrected. In a statement released after his speech, O’Malley stressed that the state would provide “unprecedented transparency” as stimulus funds are spent.
The figures released by the state Thursday cover the period from Feb. 17, 2008, when the stimulus bill was signed into law, to Sept. 30. State officials expect to see more growth when the next round of reports arrives in early January.
“We have not yet begun to see the real wave of recovery act dollars,” Enright said. “The big numbers are still coming. Next quarter is when you’re going to see a lot more job creation, a lot more dollars out the door.”
CNS TV’s Brittany Borghi contributed to this report.